Canadian luminaries embedded in King St.
Guess Who, Ostanek, Atwood among those who make Walk of Fame
||June 1, 2001|
In what has become symbolic of the most Canadian of contradictions,
13 more accomplished artists and athletes are being inducted into
Canada's four-year-old Walk of Fame.
Officially, the Walk is a stretch of pavement along King Street in
Toronto's theatre district, where the names are ceremoniously unveiled
in designer granite sidewalk slabs replete with a stylized maple leaf.
The annual process is viewed by many as a contradiction because we
tend not to embrace celebrity with the same fervour as our American
''We don't pay homage enough, really, in this country,'' says
singer Jann Arden, one of the co-hosts of the 2001 ceremony. ''You
wonder why we don't have a star system.''
Nevertheless, nine of this year's 13 inductees agreed to be present
for the Friday night unveiling and gala.
The baker's dozen includes sports heroes Jean Beliveau, Kurt
Browning, Ferguson Jenkins and the late Harry Jerome (represented by
his daughter Deborah), Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak, legendary rock
band The Guess Who, actor Leslie Nielsen, the polka king himself,
Walter Ostanek and ballerina Veronica Tennant.
Officials say author Margaret Atwood, opera singer Teresa Stratas
and Quebec filmmaker Robert Lepage had unavoidable engagements in
Europe while director Ivan Reitman had to attend a film premiere in
For each of them, mini-ceremonies will be held over the summer and
fall, along with one for singer Joni Mitchell, who couldn't attend
last year's event. Telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, who died
in 1922, is also getting a special recognition.
Arden says that what's great about the Walk of Fame is that it
recognizes an artist's lifetime body of work, not someone who
currently enjoys mass appeal.
''It's not about let's put a star in for Shania Twain - you know,
cheer and `whoo-whoo, she's done so much.' Well, she hasn't
really. These are people who have spent their lifetimes in art.''
Nielsen, too, liked the idea that it's not a popularity contest.
''I had nothing to do with it. Paramount studios did not call up
and say `How much does it cost? We'll pay it!' ''
When reminded that unlike Hollywood, too, there wouldn't be hookers
or drug dealers pacing over his slab, the star of the Naked Gun
comedies quipped: ''Well I can bring in a few. I did police work, you
Businessman Peter Soumalias, founder and chairman of the Walk
organization, also likes to stress the differences with the Hollywood
Walk of Fame, where the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce charges
celebrities up to $1,500 (U.S.) for the honour, usually part of a
promotional campaign to plug a new film or record.
Soumalias says here the public input to the process is growing each
year. Eventually, plans call for ordinary Canadians to pick all the
finalists from a committee-chosen list of 25 to 50 names.
''The public can make the selections, they're a lot smarter than we
are,'' Soumalias says, adding that the pre-selection process might
still be necessary so that those contenders who may not be at the
''top of mind'' - a Lorne Greene, say - will get serious
Guess Who drummer Gary Peterson said it means Canada has finally
''Instead of saying they're fat, they're tired, they're bald, they
accepted us as their Eagles or Beatles. They finally said `We are
proud that you are Canadians.' That's what this is about.''
Tennant said it meant you were extraordinary.
''There's a little electrical crackle about this. It really has
tapped into how I felt as a child, dreaming of the future. Not that I
ever thought this would happen, but I certainly believed very strongly
when I was a young child that I needed to work in theatre ... I didn't
want to be an ordinary person.''
The humblest inductee of all was perhaps St. Catharines, Ont.,
native Ostanek. He said he was very surprised to get a letter asking
if he would be interested.
''Naturally I got in touch with them immediately. I didn't even
reverse the charges!''
This year's 13 brings to 51 the total number of Canadians now on